Saturday, November 13, 2010

Up the Hill

I was asked some time ago about grief after placement. More specifically, I was asked what changed for me. What is it that helped me get past the worst of the pain, helped me to turn around, to feel happy again. I've been thinking about it for a while. I wasn't sure I wanted to answer, because it is a story that is meaningful to me personally but that might sound kind of ridiculous when written out. But I thought I'd give it a try anyway, in the hope that maybe someone will read it who is hurting, and I can help them hurt a little less.

The days right after placement were absolute hell for me. To say that I was unhappy would be an understatement of epic proportions. After a week or so, and after the first visit, things got a little easier, but I certainly wouldn't say life got a lot easier after that. It didn't. It sucked less. As time passed, pain started to seep away little by little like a slow leak.

And then, a few months after placement, I hit a standstill. I wasn't as depressed as I'd been immediately post-placement, but I didn't seem to be getting any happier, either. My hike back up the hill of mental health hit a roadblock. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get more than halfway up said metaphorical hill.

It was frustrating, and with that frustration came a number of other little things that acted as a mini landslide, which succeeded in knocking me back down the hill a few feet. I managed to climb back up to the peak I'd reached previously, but nothing in heaven or earth worked to get me to the top of that darned hill. I was ready to give up and pitch a tent.

I grew more and more frustrated and when the opportunity arose to do a school outreach presentation I nearly didn't take it. How, I thought, was I supposed to tell class after class of teenagers that adoption had made me happy when I didn't feel happy at all? I was beginning to think I was never going to be really happy ever again.

But something inside of me wouldn't let me say no, and so off I went, with a caseworker or two and a birth mom who had placed nearly 8 years ago. The birth mom, N, was someone whose story I'd heard before on more than one occasion and I liked and respected her. Since placement, N had married and had three children, and her story gave me hope for my own future. In my crabbiness, I think I'd have snapped at any other birth mom I might have presented with but for some reason I didn't mind N.

I told my story first, and if I was slightly less enthusiastic than normal no one noticed or at the very least no one said anything. After I finished, I gave a small smile and took my seat as N told her story.

It was the same story I'd heard her tell many times before, and I found myself drifting a bit. Then she got to the end. She told the kids that she had worried that the pain of placement would ruin her forever, that it would break her, and she would be forever broken.

Then N said three words I'm sure I must have heard before: "I'm not broken."

Such small words, but she said them with such force, such conviction that I felt them in my soul. I knew N wasn't just repeating a phrase she'd heart before. She was stating the absolute, irrefutable truth. She was NOT broken.

I can't explain it, but those three words changed something in me that day. They grew both roots in my heart and wings to carry them to my mind. They echoed in my head for hours. "I'm not broken."

Was I broken? I didn't want to be. I desperately didn't want to be. It felt wrong to me that I should go through so much pain and heartache and not come through it a stronger, better person. Being broken seemed wrong.

I decided something important that day. I decided that no matter how long it took me to climb that dratted hill, I would climb it. I would not give up, because I was not broken either.

The day N said those words - "I'm not broken" - was a turning point in my grief. I don't think it was until she said them that I realized I wasn't broken, either. I could be, if I so chose, but I didn't have to be broken, not for a second, if I didn't want it. I decided I didn't want it.

That's not to say that my pain is all gone or that there are no hard days and no tears. Certainly there are hard days! Certainly I cry! I still grieve a little. I think I'm entitled to; after all, my heart was broken. My heart was broken. But I was not.

My Father in Heaven asked me to exercise more faith than I thought I possessed and place my precious daughter with two people I had never met. He gave me the strength to do it. He saw me through the hard times afterward. I am not broken. He fixed me. I am whole.


American Mamacita said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly.

-Kim @

A Love Worth Waiting For.... said...

Wow!! Thank you for opening and sharing your heart with us!!

A Life Being Lived said...

Love this post! I also have to remind myself that I am not broken...I have just been stretched way beyond my limits.

Michele said...

Wow!!!! That touched my heart and I placed over 25 years ago and when I read those 3 words I'm not broken I felt that pang where I know I am going to be OK. I have been reunited with my daughter but it kind of crashed and burned but 3 words keep being whispered in my ear by God- it's not over. Isn't it amazing how we draw strength from the things we hear or read or even tell one another about our experiences. I have never met my child, never held her again, never heard her sweet voice but it's OK because it's not over. Thank you so so much for that message this morning as I woke today feeling a little sad as she has pulled away pretty much for good with an update maybe once or twice a year. My heart feels like it has been ripped out again but I am coping. I am amazed by your strength and ability to say things in a way to just get us and make such an impact. Please keep up the good work and know you even reached an old gal like me who has been doing this what feels forever and even after 25 years I still am learning!!! God Bless!

Amy said...

This is a lovely post, thank you for sharing.

~*~ Jodi ~*~ said...

Beautifully written!

Heather said...

Great post Jill. I love it. Thanks for sharing. You put into words exactly how I feel. I am still to this day amazed at the strength I had to make it through those horrible months of hell after I placed, and then to move on with my life. I know I didn't do it alone. "I'm not broken" should be an anthem for birthmoms.

A Life Being Lived said...

Check out my latest post- you've been given the Cherry on Top Award :)

Tamra said...

Jill....girl you have a mind and a voice to represent us very well and to lift and lead and inspire those who are just behind you on the same path. you do have a gift, i'm so glad you share it!

CCmomma said...

absolutely wonderful! You amaze me everyday!!

Bean Sprouts said...

Gosh I love your blog. What an amazing post. I just wrote down "I am not broken" on a sticky note and stuck it on my monitor here at work. My daugther is 7 1/2, and I have good days, and bad days. This sums it up so well though, despite the pain, and the tears, the good days and the bad days, I'm not, thanks for that one!

Mostly Jessica said...

This is truly a powerful post! I think those words can help many who feel broken; birthmothers or not. Thanks for sharing!

Sally Bacchetta said...

I appreciate your honesty. I'm sure you touch and heal many people with your words. "I'm not broken"... I love it.

ME said...

thank you. I've been feeling rather broken lately. It's good to know I have a choice. For the past decade I've just ignored my grief or lied to myself about it and pushed it aside and now that I'm actually ready to deal with it I feel like it's broken me all over again. I see though that you're right, my heart might be broken, but I'M NOT BROKEN.

Anonymous said...

If I wasn't such an emotional zombie these days I would be sobbing while reading this post. I am so glad you wrote this post, I needed it tonight.

I have been reading for awhile, but have never commented. I relinquished my son at the beginning of October. It's encouraging to know..."I'm not broken" :)


Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I love this post!!!

S said...

You always help me understand how it feels being on the other end of the process of adoption. I know how I am feeling and how hard it is for me. But its hard to know how the birth parents handle it and what they have to go through. I think its helping me to get somewhat prepared for when we are chosen to be parents one day.